October 10, 2016

Guest Post: Derek McFadden

Filed under: Great Reads,This Writing Life — Tags: , , , , — jenny @ 12:54 pm

Cast No Shadows
I first met Derek McFadden when he had begun writing his very first novel. The seriousness with which Derek approached his words and his craft–the art of learning to write a novel–appealed to me greatly. When Derek shared some of the struggles he’d faced in his life, I became even more impressed. Later on, I would refer Derek to one of the freelance editors I hold in highest regard–further evidence of how seriously Derek took this stuff–and read pages of his book myself. Now Derek is finally getting published. But the book that’s coming out isn’t the one we met over–in some ways, it couldn’t be more different. This writing road is a twisty one–we all know that. Read on to see how Derek’s words are reaching the world, and meet some other authors joining him along the way.
Derek McFadden

The thing about being a writer: It’s imperative, as a writer, to remember that no other writer can say things exactly the way you would say them except you. Writing is an intensely personal exercise/job/process, the end result of which we writers hope to share with the world, and in this sharing our work will be judged. (There’s an interesting dichotomy there, don’t you think?)

But what if you’re a writer who’s feeling lost? You feel like you’ve done everything you can to get your words where you know they need to go, and yet they’re still not where you want them to be? They might still be stuck, unread, in your computer. This was the case for me about two and a half years ago, when the opportunity to contribute to the ghost-story anthology Cast No Shadows (out Oct. 10th from Curiosity Quills Press) came to me.

I have a mild case of cerebral palsy. As a reader, I’ve found there aren’t any portrayals of characters like me in literature. And many portrayals of palsy make me cringe. The characters are either (A): Too Palsied (meaning they’re in a wheelchair and may not be able to talk) or they’re (B:) Less Palsied Than I Am (which often results in me wishing I had abilities I’ll never gain, such as better eyesight or the freedom to drive (my hope for the latter rests in and with the self-driving car revolution to come).

In writing my unpublished novel, God’s Mistake (the title is meant somewhat sardonically), I wanted to show readers my truth. However, since I’d been writing—with minimal feedback–for a while, I was beginning to wonder if I could even do this writing thing I love so much. Could I actually do it, or was I just fooling myself? Late one night, when I was in the midst of a quiet personal crisis of confidence, my friend Jordan (we met on a website where writers drum up the courage to query agents) wrote to me and asked if I would like to contribute to a ghost-story anthology.

“We’re looking for a short story. Five to ten thousand words,” she said. I had a piece that had been laying dormant for about a week, but I thought it might fit the bill. I told her I’d do it, and got to work. Soon, I had a story I was not only proud of but that I knew would go somewhere, would be seen by readers. What a shot of confidence that was!

Re-energized, I went back to my big novel, re-worked and revised with the help of an editor, and now—while I don’t have an agent or a publisher yet—I have a book I could not be prouder to call mine, and it wouldn’t have happened (at least not the way it happened) without a story I wrote for a friend to be included in an anthology full of ghosts.

Derek McFadden is a former March Of Dimes Ambassador, the author of the poetry collection Prose From A Grandson To A Senior Fellow, and a contributor to the short-story anthology Cast No Shadows (Curiosity Quills Press). His novel God’s Mistake awaits its agent, publisher, and readers.

Some of the other anthology contributors:

Joan O. Scharf:  Imaginative writer of gritty flash fiction and short stories.  Born in farm country of the Catskill Mountains and traveled the world.  Utica College, Utica NY/science major; Faxton Hospital/RN degree; SanFrancisco State, California/studied French; Hodges University, Florida/creative writing.  Books include: Hanging on a Twisted Line…an eclectic short-short story mix of genres with compelling unexpected endings.  Valentine Tales…geared for young readers; the humorous adventures of a curious mischievous boy in the early 1900’s.  Dark of the Island (e-book) filled with intrigue, suspense and horror.  Also published in 6 Anthologies and in a variety of magazines.

Grant Eagar is an Aircraft Design Engineer who enjoys writing young adult fantasy, romantic comedy, vampire stories and steam punk in the evenings. Over the years, he would take the stories he told his children at bed time and transform them into books. A graduate of the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. He is published in the San Diego Writers, Gears of Brass and These Vampires Still Don’t Sparkle anthologies. He works in Mojave Ca but calls Layton Ut home.

Gloria Slade is from Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  She has a BS degree in Social Studies from Northern Michigan University and is also a retiree from that institution.  Gloria has published short stories in The Porcupine Press, a local U.P. magazine.  After retiring from NMU, she moved to Naples, Florida and enjoys writing memoirs and short stories.

Jeremy Mortis has been writing stories for over twenty years and has been lucky enough to be published in the last five. He currently works for the state of New York as a job coach.

Clare Weze is a biologist and divides her time between editing scientific publications and writing fiction. Her work has been shortlisted for the Commonword Children’s Diversity Writing Prize (2012), and her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. She lives in England.

Lisa Oaks was born and raised in Northeastern Utah. She lives in Vernal with her husband and kids.

Jordan Elizabeth writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams. With an eclectic job history behind her, she is now diving into the world of author. It happens to be her most favorite one yet. When she’s not creating art or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog. Jordan is the vice president of the Utica Writers Club. She roams Central New York, but she loves to travel. Her five published novels are ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, COGLING, and GOAT CHILDREN.

Amy L Gale is a romance author by night, pharmacist by day who loves rock music and the feel of sand between her toes. She’s the author of Amazon New Adult Bestsellers, Blissful Tragedy, Blissful Valentine, and Christmas Blitz. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, scary movies, rock concerts, and reading books at the beach. She lives in the lush forest of Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, six cats, and golden retriever, Sadie. You can find her at www.authoramygale.com, www.twitter.com/amyg618, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Gale/540928695977160.

August 7, 2012

To Market, To Market, Jiggity Jig

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:02 am

The above would be such a great title for a blog post about the writer’s Hamlet-esque quandary (To market or not to market, that is the question) that even though I sat down meaning this to be my first sentence:

To bookstore, to bookstore is the real refrain of our summer

I’m gonna save that one for later and take up Shakespeare’s rallying cry instead.

Some people would say that this isn’t a question at all. Sunny Frazier, an acquisitions editor at Oak Tree Press, is a sage of marketing and she is famous for uttering words to the effect of: she would rather take on a good book by a writer who’s willing to get her feet wet in the marketing pool than a great book by a writer’s who’s not.

Them’s powerful words, but I understand Sunny’s wisdom. There are so many books coming out these days that a writer has to understand how to make his or hers stand out.

Even more than the problem (or is it a wonder?) of the number of books published, there is this truth. We are all used to relating to more people in a given day than we ever have before. We are used to an unprecedented level of access to people. If they don’t respond to an email, then there’s text, or a tweet, or a status update. This level of connectivity has become so much the norm that if we don’t have it, we may feel frustrated. Or put off. We may simply turn our attention to someone more present.

No writer wants a reader to feel that way.

Which is probably why so many writers feel that having a strong social media presence is not just a plus, but a given.

There are drawbacks, though, and we pretty much all recognize them, I think.

The endless juggle life is now. How we never feel like we are doing everything, because there is no end to everything. We are never, ever simply done.

The weekend was invented for a reason. World-creating requires a break. So does book-creating, or career-creating. What happens if we don’t get that rest? That’s a big unknown. One big social experiment in which we’re all taking part.

Or, what if you’re an introvert and find the demands of all this interaction draining? You might be a wonderful writer, but meh at tweeting and texting.

What’s a writer to do?

I wish I had an answer. I do have one guess, though, and a possible partial solution.

The guess is that precisely because virtual connections are so ubiquitous, it may be that real-time, face-to-face interaction begins to have a resurgence, and the writer who is willing to invest in that will really stand out. No, we can’t connect with 20,000 followers live. But is anybody actually reading all those tweets?

What we can do is get out to physical locations–bookstores, libraries, book clubs, school, out-of-the-box places like a knitting store if you write crafts mysteries, or a history class if your book focuses on some distant epoch–and say hello to the handful, dozens, or hundreds of people there.

Really say hello. Out loud. With a smile and a handshake.

I’m not saying that social media will or should go away. In fact, I dearly hope it doesn’t. My world is broader and more filled with love and closeness because of people I’ve met in far-flung locations that only the internet has brought me to.

But I am saying that we shouldn’t abandon one for the other. They can both co-exist, and enrich our lives in different ways.

The possible partial solution (I’m hedging my bets here, but I do hope this may help at least one person who is struggling with this) is that we all stop trying to do it all. It’s impossible anyway. And if we stick to the aspects of marketing that are truly organic to us, then it won’t seem a burden, but a joy.

Tweeting about food isn’t hard for a foodie. And if that person happens to write a cupcake mystery series then the people who love her tweets just may love her books as well.

No one can do everything, but everyone can find something to do that is value-add–both for the producer of content, and the recipient.

If nothing else, post about how hard you find all this social media stuff and the chronic seesaw that is life today.

I’ll bet you find a million followers.

January 8, 2012

Cyber Book Sale!

Filed under: Great Reads — jenny @ 11:05 am

Lorie Ham is the editor of the cool Kings River Life Magazine and an avid reader. To offset some tough times in her life, she is selling a few of her books. Since there’s nothing I love better than books for sale, I thought Suspense Your Disbelief could set up a cyber table. I hope you all find some finds!

For details, please see below. If you are interested, email Lorie at mysteryrat@gmail.com

Shipping not included. Deals can be made if you purchase several books:

  1. Unnatural Selection by Aaron Elkins-hardback pulling away from the spine-$2
  2. Little Tiny Teeth by Aaron Elkins-hardback good condition almost new-$5
  3. The Miracle At Speedy Motors-No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith-hardback-some tear on one corner of dustjacket-$3
  4. Tea Time For The Traditionally Built-same series-hardback good condition-$5
  5. The Double Comfort Safari Club-same series-hardback good condition-$5
  6. The Tears of the Giraffe-same series paperback good condition-$4
  7. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective-same series-paperback some water damage-$2
  8. Morality For Beautiful Girls-same series-paperback good condition $4
  9. The Kalahari Typing School For Men-same series-paperback-few bent pages-$3
  10. Paperback ARC of Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson-new $10
  11. Hunt the Mood-Karen Chance-paperback-new with a couple dings on one corner (fantasy) $4
  12. Rule 34-Charles Stross-hardback-new $5 (SciFi)
  13. The Chocolate Castle Clue-JoAnna Carl-hardback-new but slight tears in the dust jacket at the bottom $9
  14. The Worst Thing-Aaron Elkins-hardback-good condition no dustjacket $5
  15. Final Curtain-R.T. Jordan-paperback-almost new-$3
  16. Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters-hardback library copy $2
  17. Murder In The Smithsonian- hardback library copy $2
  18. A Savage Place (Spenser) by Robert B. Parker- hardback library copy $2
  19. High Midnight-A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky- hardback library copy $2
  20. The Howard Hughes Affair-A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky- hardback library copy $2
  21. The Children’s Zoo by Lillian O’Donnell- hardback library copy $2
  22. Dragonfire by Bill Pronzini- hardback library copy $2

November 20, 2011

Guest Post: Elizabeth Lyon

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:00 pm

Manuscript Makeover

It’s not every day–OK, it’s never happened before–that I get to feature someone on the blog who played an instrumental role in helping me get published. There’s a dream guest of mine who would also fit this description–but today’s dream guest came in at an earlier leg of my journey.

I was querying agents with a 180,000 word manuscript. How did I get requests from agents despite that enormous pink elephant in the room? Because I’d read Elizabeth Lyon’s book, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, and she’d taught me how to write a query letter and a synopsis.

Pure and simple.

Of course, I did many of the things wrong that Elizabeth is going to warn more savvy writers than I was against in her post below. But it didn’t matter. I was getting requests, and soon one of those requests was going to lead me to slice 60,000 unnecessary words from my very first novel, and I was hooked on the process.

Thank you, Elizabeth. And here’s to all our writing roads being paved smoothly…with golden stories.

Elizabeth Lyon

How do I know when my novel is ready to query?

Brace yourself. Stop sending out queries. Am I serious?

All writers are blinded by subjectivity. Few books are ready for publication but the writer is the last one to know this.

Let’s assume that you have done everything you’re supposed to in order to have a completed, ready-to-publish manuscript. That means you’ve done several critical actions first:

  • Finished your novel,
  • Revised it multiple times,
  • Gained feedback from a critique group or a circle of readers,
  • Read Manuscript Makeover then
  • Revised it another 3 or 5 or 12 times.

In addition, to gain marketing savvy you may have boosted your chances of winning in the marketing game by:

  • Attending conferences to gain a quantum leap in understanding of the industry
  • Meeting agents or editors and pitched your book (trial runs on marketing)
  • Entering contests, and
  • Bagging publication of short stories.

You may be thinking, “That’s a huge amount of work. I’d rather be writing.”

Consider this: why should you expect to gain the prize—a contract, money, and recognition, if you have not fully pursued the education and apprenticeship that are pre-requisites in other professions such as playing in a symphony, practicing law, or performing brain surgery?

Let’s say you have done most of the above items. You may even match the following demographic profile:

On average, novelists who break in have 4 novels sitting in a drawer. On average, they have spent 10 years of writing, studying, and marketing. On average, they have a million words under their belt.

To flip this serious blog around, many writers do see publication of first novels (or memoirs—equally difficult to write and publish), after spending only a few years, and some do nothing that is advised and still succeed. Every writer’s trajectory is different.

When you’re ready to query, sometimes the only way to find out if your book makes the grade is by jumping in. Test the market. First, you’ve got to write the query that gains a request to see your pages. Read The Sell Your Novel Toolkit. The query should be 5 to 7 paragraphs, the shorter the better. I’ve seen 3 do the job. If you are sending the query in the mail, your pitch must fit on one page—and don’t forget that SASE. Most agents now want e-mail queries. Some require submission via forms on their websites.

Edit and revise that query till you are sick of it. One writer I know spent 40 hours, literally, on her query. A successful query, in my opinion, gains 3 positive responses out of every 10, and that is what her query produced.

Now, test your query’s effectiveness by sending it to 6 agents via email. If you get rejections, revise your query. Be Teflon coated and let rejections slide away. If you get requests, send exactly what is requested and no more. If you get a request to mail your manuscript or a partial, add a 1- to 3-page synopsis—and an SASE.

Next, send out another batch of 6 or 12 or 30 queries. Rejections? Revise your query; subject it to scrutiny by critique group members or your resident OCD critical friend. Change the order of paragraphs. Amp it with stronger verbs and a stronger hook. Shorten the sentences. Draw your hero in a way that shows original and three-dimensional characterization.

Since many agents (or their assistants) read only a few paragraphs of a query or a few pages of a novel before they hit the delete key or slap the form rejection into the SASE, consider hiring a professional editor to do a critical read-through or a full editing and evaluation of 50 pages and a synopsis.

Obviously, I’m a big believer in using professional freelance book editors either prior to querying or after you know that your novel is apparently not making an agent yelp “Eureka!”

When have you reached the flick-it-in time? You’ll have to decide. Maybe after 30 rejections. Or 50. Or when Catnip walks over your keyboard and won’t let you send more.

History is rife with novelists who believed in their work and were soundly rejected only to self-publish, or to find that one enthusiastic agent after 400 rejections. Some of these books later became bestsellers and award-winners. Traditional mainstream publishing is often too elitist, passing up books that deserve publication; books that are fully professionally written and simply do not guarantee the bottom-line return the publisher is seeking. A plague on all their publishing houses.

So what if your novel is ready to be published? In that case, make it happen. You deserve to complete the circle from idea to creation to a book you can share. We are artists; we deserve an audience. If your marketing gets you an agent and a sale, you’re in. If not, with print-on-demand and e-book technology, the costs are relatively small (do your Google homework) and the satisfaction immense. With completion, you can move on to your next novel, at last returning to what is most satisfying: writing.

Elizabeth Lyon is a freelance book editor for over 20 years. She is the author of Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, and Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore.

Manuscript Makeover was featured in “The Writer” as one of the “8 Great Writing Books of 2008,” and as “perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction.”

September 11, 2011

May Peace Be With You–and Also You

Filed under: Great Reads — jenny @ 4:45 pm

On this day of memorial and remembrance, I offer sorrow for those who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001. And I offer humble admiration and thanks to all those people who charged forward instead of back in the act of helping others.

Greenpoint Press is the brain child of my mentor and New York Writers Workshop co-founder, Charles Salzberg, and it has published a book every American–every citizen of the world–has cause to read. Dr. Benjamin Luft collected interviews with many of the 9/11 first responders, interviews which Dr. Luft turned into a book and a film, and which the Smithsonian Institute is now archiving in its permanent collection.

Many of the people who helped on 9/11–the ones who went forward instead of back–are sick with aftereffects now. They carry memories no human being should have to live with.

This is their burden because they showed us the best of what it means to be human.

August 3, 2011

Books for Sale, Books for Sale

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:57 pm

Anyone remember the children’s book CAPS FOR SALE?

It’s a good one. But not quite as good as a whole teetering stack of BOOKS for sale, which is what Lorie Ham is offering here.

Please contact Lorie at mysteryrat(at)gmail(dot)com if you’d like to buy any of the titles she is offering!

1.The Moor by Laurie King-book club edition-little dusty & some tiny tares on the dustjucket, but otherwise good $5
2.Sticks & Scones by Diane Mott Davidson-library copy but in good shape other than the page in front that had the library info $3
3.The Hard Way by Lee Child-some wear on dustjacket but otherwise new-$5
4.Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers-library copy $2
5.The Ridge by Michael Koryta brand new hardback $5
6.Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz-like new $5
7.The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers-book club copy new $5
8.Dead in Dixie by Charlaine Harris-book club copy almost new (just one tiny tear on the back bottom dust jacket) $5
9.Winter Haven by Athol Dickson-new $5
10.The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz-book club copy new $5
11.Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs-slight wear on dust jacket/tiny bit of yellowing $5
12.Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson-some wear on dust jacket and corners $5
13.The Cypress House by Michael Koryta-tiny bit of dust jacket wear $5

1.Morality For Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith-new trade paper $4
2.The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith-new $3
3.Murder On a Girls Night Out by Anne George-reader copy but pretty good shape-$2
4.Reservations Are Murder by Tim Myers-some wear-signed $3
5.Giotto’s Hand-An Art History Mystery by Iain Pears-library copy $1
6.Thicker Than Water by PJ Parish-some wear $2
7.Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs-reader copy $1
8.Forget About Murder by Elizabeth Daniels Squire-library copy but pretty good condition $2
9.Jack the Lady Killer by HRF Keating-trade paper-this is a detective novel in verse-library copy-pretty good condition $2
10.Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith-trade paper-library but good condition-$2
11.O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King-library copy/reader condition $1
12.Santa Fe Rules by Stuart Woods-reading copy $2
13.The Poet by Michael Connelly-reading copy $1
14.The Children of Men by P.D. James reading copy $1
15.Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich-reading copy $1
16.Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris-almost new-very slight spine wear $3
17.non-fiction mystery writing book-Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden-trade paperback some wear $5
18.Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice-reading copy pretty worn-$1
19.The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice-reading copy pretty worn $1

1.In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway-hardback new $10
2.The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown-hardback new $5
3.The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison trade paperback reading copy $1
4.A Thousand Suns by Khaled Hosseini-hardback book club edition new $4
5.Nightmare Academy by Frank Peretti-paperback reading copy $1
6.Hangman’s Curse by Frank Peretti-paperback like new $2

Non-fiction religious:
1.God’s Politics by Jim Wallis trade paper some wear $5
2.Secret Things of God by Dr. Henry Cloud-hardback new but signed to me $5
3.Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver-hardback some dustjacket wear $4

1. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace by Gore Vidal-trade paperback new & signed $15

May 16, 2011

Guest Post: Rob Walker

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:28 am

Titanic 2012

Many readers know that I am following the new e frontier avidly. Writers whose work I admire, such as Karen McQuestion, have been great friends to me as I explore this territory. I never fail to recommend Joe Konrath’s megaphone of a blog, and I’ve used the Barry Eisler/Amanda Hocking polar opposite decision as the basis for more than one tweet or post title.

So today I am excited to welcome Rob Walker, another whose name belongs in these hallowed halls. Is hallowed the right word? There’s a brashness, a tent revival quality, to those who believe digital reading will decimate books–that books are just the T Rex who doesn’t know the meteor has landed yet. And yet–maybe the prophets are right. I don’t know myself, of course, but I offer Rob’s words, and his evidence of success, as another in the voice this conversation raises.

Enjoy! And in your comments please feel free to proclaim the truth–as you know it.

Rob Walker

eBooks & On Becoming an Indie Author/Publisher

Why Go All Independent Author on Us, Rob? (Part I)

The following few lines taken form my ebook Titanic 2012 might stand in as a metaphor for the condition of Legacy publishing right now. Just replace the idea of a caved-in mine with traditional publishing… (lol):

The day had ended with little to show for and mine superintendent McAffey remained frustrated and upset. He knew from experience it’d take days if not a week to get the men comfortable enough about this section of the mine to even begin to clean up the mess where some timbers had given way. “Hell, amounts to a sneeze,” he said to the man beside him.

“Minor inconvenience at best,” agreed Francis O’Toole.  “Thank God, no one’s been kilt; two injured and off to hospital’s all.”

E-books and the electronic readers like the kindle are suddenly legion at schools, at writers conferences, even at, ironically enough, bookstores. I will never forget at a book signing when a lady pushing a baby carriage stopped by long enough to reach into the carriage and pull out her kindle, which she proudly flashed before us, asking me and my wife, Miranda, “Are your books on Kindle?” We were ready for her, both of us replying, “Yes indeed.”

3 Million plus Kindle e-readers have been sold since December of this year, and Mother’s Day is likely to see a huge number sold as well—perhaps more; at least this is the number I keep seeing in articles in The New Yorker and Newsweek. In other words, the future is upon us and traditional publishing has reason to be concerned even if they don’t know it.  More and more authors are taking control of their content and making decisions that impact the content—what they create.

Traditionally, the working arrangement between publisher and writer has been one of you turn over your creation and the publisher “takes all the risks” as if you are taking no risks in spending months if not years on a manuscript. However, since you are taking “no risks” like those faced by the publisher—business risks—the notion is that you are now passive cargo and worth about 8 to 10 percent of each “unit” sold. Now all decision making is out of your hands, and you are supposed to go write another book in the event the first one sells well. Meanwhile, the publisher’s team—all of whom have pensions and paychecks—make the important decisions of pricing, placing, marketing, packaging, title, down to the font and colors on the cover.

In other words, all decisions are made by committee. Think totem pole and the author is at the bottom, and wasn’t a camel a horse designed by committee? My point is when the book fails, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole is the one blamed as his/her numbers of unit sales is too low. So the business model for the author is pretty bleak, and has been since Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press; ninety nine percent of all novelists in the world cannot live on what they earn as writers. Could you live on eight percent of what you sell without health benefits or pension?

That said, let’s turn now to the business model for the author who is now an Independent Author/Publisher—and for starters, the Kindle contract is not an 8-10% cut but a 70/30 split with the 70 going to the author! Aside from this, the author makes all the decisions to package and price the book, no title fights, no arguments over hardcover vs. trade vs. mass market as none of these designations apply in e-books. The added attraction to doing e-books is control and a sense of freedom.

Publishers are as interested in change as glaciers, and for good reason—as they “take all the risks”.  This is no more evident than now with the sudden growth of e-readers and e-readership as the big houses like Random House and Penguin and others are warring with Amazon.com over price-setting. They have always controlled the prices, but now suddenly millions of avid readers, rabid readers if you will (Kindle readers can go through forty books in a week) want their books at less than ten dollars—as Bezos, the head of Amazon promised them—“You buy a Kindle, no Kindle book on Amazon [will be] more than 9.99.”

Fact is, Bezos wants the world to have access to any book you or I want “at the moment” or as close to NOW as Whispernet can make it happen. This is why Bezos named his device “Kindle” to “kindle the passion in readers and non-readers alike.”

By using the A-B-C directions at www.dtp.amazon.com, I now have some 43 novels for sale online via Kindle Book Store on Amazon.com. The e-books for out of print titles may require getting a company like www.blueleaf.com to convert an actual book to a scan to doc, and once you have a doc file it must be converted to HTML—which can be the most difficult part of the steps involved. If you already have a doc file of the book in question, you won’t have to send off a book to be scanned. I used Blue Leaf because their prices are three times cheaper than anyone else doing book scanning.

The most trouble involved in the process is converting the file to html and then in reviewing it, correcting the errors that will inevitably come up in the process of conversion—sometimes quite time consuming. However, I have it on good authority that a file can be converted with ease by sending it to a friend who is on gmail. I’ve only just recently learned of this shortcut, but it sounds promising and I will use it in future.

Meanwhile, once the html conversion is complete, once done and placed up on your Kindle dashboard, the rest is smooth sailing. The results in terms of sales are astonishing.  In the old business model with traditional publishing, wisdom has it that you price the book at the top end—as high as the market will bear. However, in the e-book model, the readers expect and demand low end pricing, very low end pricing. They are savvy readers who know that putting a book onto Kindle is a snap compared to printing on paper, paying for paper, warehousing paper, overhead for paper, paying PR people, paying marketing director and his staff, etc. are no longer relevant tasks.  Since all of this “goes away” in the e-book world, the readers expect far cheaper books in the manner Bezos envisioned – and why not?

It is for this reason that I listed most of my forty plus books on Kindle for $1.99 and $2.99. The books at this low end rate are selling like a river flowing, while my three titles placed up by Harper Collins—priced at exactly the same price as the paper books at $6.99—are sitting there like three stones (no sale) while my novels like Children of Salem at $2.99 are my bestselling titles. I earned 400 dollars last month on books priced at the lowest end of the scale, while my hardcover novel in the same month earned zip.  In one year, I earned (after repaying advance, after packager’s 20 percent, after all overhead costs) a mere 141 dollars on my traditionally published hardcover DEAD ON, while in one month, I earned 400 dollars on my lowly $1.99 and $2.99 specials.  What does this kind of economic comparison say about the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things?

Part IIYour Guide to Independent Authorship Found Here will continue tomorrow. Hope to see you back in your seat, ears alert, right here next time for the particulars of getting started in this brave new world of becoming an Indie Author.

Robert W. Walker has taught writing in all its permutations (“All writing is creative writing but not all writing sings,”) from composition and development to a study of the literary masters to advanced creative writing. His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (now published as Daniel & The Wrongway Railway, Royal Fireworks Press, NY), but his first suspense-techno-thriller-sf-mystery came in 1979, after college, a novel that won no awards entitled SUB-ZERO.

April 5, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 2:57 pm

No, wait, this isn’t about me and my publishing saga. (Or not-publishing saga, as the case-so-far may be).

By the way, thank you very much to Cynthia Haggard who managed to make me feel like the back-story posts aren’t as groaningly burdensome for you to read as they can be for me to write. I will do an update soon.

But this winner is Shirley Nienkark, who left a comment for Karen McQuestion, and was drawn at random for a giveaway of Karen’s new book, FAVORITE.

A copy will be going out this week! Congratulations, Shirley, and thank you to everyone who left a comment. More giveaways (and yes, back-story) to come…

April 1, 2011

Guest Post: Karen McQuestion

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 7:57 am


I am thrilled to welcome back initially self-published sensation Karen McQuestion to Suspense Your Disbelief. Karen wrote a Made It Moment last year and since then her sales have only soared, Amazon’s print publishing arm, Encore, has released a second book, FAVORITE, and now in the wake of Barry Eisler’s departure from SMP, Karen is back in the news again–Entertainment Weekly, no less–as one of the leaders of the pack in this brave new world of independence in publishing. Please read on for Karen’s update, in her own words. And then check out her new book, a creepy, tingly, one-day read, with a positively gothic mystery at its heart.

Karen McQuestion

I rewrote my young adult novel, Favorite, many times.

It started out as an adult book–a women’s fiction with a mystery element. The main character, Angie Favorite, was in her mid-thirties and had a father who’d disappeared when she was a child. Events in the book gave clues to what had happened to him. There was a crazy cast of characters, including her ex-husband, a rock guitarist named Elroy, her smart teenage son, Jason, and her brother, Bob, and his selfish wife, Carla (the couple had their own subplot). After I finished writing it, I had several writer friends review it and give feedback, then I made some changes and polished it up.

I got an agent for the book. He was new to the agenting game, but enthusiastic. He had some great suggestions for improving the manuscript and we did two rounds of revisions. He sent it out to twenty-some editors with the title Finding Angie. Two of them liked it well enough to take to their editorial committee, where it was promptly shot down by the marketing people. When my agent took a different job dealing with foreign rights, we amicably parted ways.

I sent the book out on my own and a few editors agreed to read it, but there were no takers. One editor didn’t want to buy it, but sent me extensive notes suggesting improvements. Her ideas would have required a lot of work. By that time, I was tired of the book, so I shelved it and moved on to writing a different novel.

A few years later, I got the idea to rewrite it as a young adult novel. This required making Angie a teenager. Her ex-husband became her father; her mother became her grandmother, and her son, her brother. The missing parent was now her mother. I made other changes as well. I dug out the letter from the editor who’d given me detailed notes. She’d disliked the ambiguous ending, (which I’d thought was true to life), so I scrapped it and completely rewrote it. Following her advice, I deleted numerous metaphors because they were distracting and unnecessary. I also eliminated the Bob and Carla subplot, because really, who cared?

I queried agents for this new YA version and one called with interest. We talked and she said she wanted changes. Her assistant emailed me notes, and I wrote my heart out for three weeks. I sent the revised manuscript back and waited. A month later, she sent a terse email saying it wasn’t for her, but thanks anyway. I was disappointed and puzzled. Shortly thereafter, she left her agency and started her own. I like to think that maybe she was caught up in the process of starting a new business and didn’t have time, but I’ll never really know.

I started to wonder if it was just a weird book.

I had another writer friend read it and she pointed out some areas in the story where I’d done more telling than showing. I fixed this problem and added 4000 words in the process.

In November 2009, encouraged by my mom who said it was her favorite of all of my books, I self-published the manuscript to be available as an e-book on Kindle. I found a great image on istockphoto.com and gave it the title, Favorite. I was overjoyed when my weird book starting selling well.

Based on sales and good reviews, it was acquired by Amazon’s publishing division, AmazonEncore, last year and will be rereleased on April 1st. Going with a publishing house required two rounds of editing, but this time around it was fairly painless.

I can’t wait to send a copy to the editor who was so helpful so many years ago. She may not even remember me or my manuscript, but I want to let her know that her efforts to help a new writer made a difference.

I’m happy Favorite found a publishing home with AmazonEncore, but I’m even happier that it’s now out of my hands and I can’t make any more changes. Enough already.

Karen McQuestion‘s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. She is the author of six books self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, one of which, A Scattered Life, caught the attention of an L.A. based production company and became the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film.  Her new book, Favorite, releases today, April 1, 2011, by AmazonEncore.  McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin.

Leave a comment for Karen! You’ll be entered to win a copy of FAVORITE.

March 15, 2011

Another Carl Brookins review

Filed under: Great Reads — jenny @ 11:40 am

I love it when Carl sends these along. Please check out his review of “an oldie but goodie”.

A Puree of Poison
By Claudia Bishop
ISBN: 0425193314
Publisher, Berkley Prime Crime
December, 2003, 260 pgs.

This small-town cozy comes with two squabbling sisters, one a gourmand cook, the other an established painter.  They collide in a little upstate New York town called Hemlock Falls.  Aptly named.  Together the sisters Sarah, called Quill, and Meg, own and operate an inn on a perfect plot of property overlooking the namesake falls.  The novel comes with a list of the huge number of characters at the front and an unremarkable recipe at the back.

The 133rd anniversary of a minor Civil War skirmish is approaching and the town is planning big doings.  Things get rapidly complicated.  Re-enactors are arriving to stage the battle, a poisonous couple of independent film-makers appear, and Quill, who cannot manage a business to save her soul, is trying out various practices on the Inn’s employees she is picking up from a business course at Cornell.  Cornell ought to sue.

Then people start dying.  They are old and not exactly in the best of health, but they weren’t at death’s door, either.  The one thing they had in common was the Inn.  All three victims had had meals at the Inn on the same day.  The town doctor, who’s in love with Meg, the aforementioned sister, is mightily distressed.  He asks Meg’s sister, Quill, to investigate.  This of course adds to the number of subjects over which the two sisters can disagree.  As one might imagine, there’s a great amount of shouting, stomping about and door slamming.

Quill, of course, agrees to look into the deaths, if only to protect the reputation of the Inn and her sister.  It isn’t like she hasn’t enough to occupy her.  She has to deal with a twit of a receptionist who’s trying to finish a PhD and her own inept efforts to force worrisome new business practices on her employees without any preparation.

All of this is handled with a light touch and there are several clever scenes, helped by some imaginative and interesting characters, but it all never quite comes off.  The sisters’ constant squabbling, the irritating front office receptionist who should have been fired for insubordination, and half a dozen other offenses, overshadow some strong writing and clever plotting.

Find author and reviewer Carl Brookins at www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com

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